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Best, Megan. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Ethics and the Beginning of Human Life. Kingsford, N.S.W.: Matthias Media, 2012. 526 pp. $29.99. Biographical Sketch of the Author

Megan Best earned her PhD from the University of Sydney and is a Roman Catholic clinician with Hope Healthcare which provides palliative care in Sydney, Australia. Best is a bioethicist who advocates for rights on behalf of the unborn in the Australian legislature. Best is a Research Associate at the Institute for Ethics and Society for Notre Dame University in the United States, a part time lecturer in medical ethics at the University of New South Wales, a visiting lecturer at Sydney Missionary and Bible College, and works with The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International University.

Summary of the Contents

In response to requests from Christians seeking moral clarity on issues of reproductive technology, Best wrote Fearfully and Wonderfully Made in 2012 as a resource for decision making. The book is divided into sixteen chapters with five appendices. In chapter 1, Best recognizes the problem in finding accurate information on issues of fertility and outlines her purpose in writing a book specifically for married Christian couples who recognize the authority of Scripture and seek to honor God in their family planning.

Chapters 2 through 5 lay out the scientific and theological foundation Best used to evaluate modern ethical dilemmas. In Chapter 2, Best argues that before one can develop strong moral convictions, it is necessary to understand human reproductive biology. Best outlines several alternative views of when life begins and makes her case through twelve arguments that despite the efforts of some to use scientific jargon to confuse the general population, the best science supports the definition of human personhood beginning at the moment the sperm penetrates the wall of the egg (p. 16). Best expands her argument in chapter 3 by exploring various theological, philosophical, and scientific arguments that distinguish between personhood and biological humanhood. She concludes that, “the moral status of the human embryo is not a scientific question but a philosophical and metaphysical one (p. 37).” This philosophical question of personhood is best answered by the Scripture which makes clear that a the human baby is a person from the moment of conception. Chapters 4 and 5 complete Best’s moral foundation asserting that childbearing in the context of biblical marriage along with a strong biblical worldview lays the right foundation against secular theories, such as consequentialism, for rightly deciding how Christians should utilize the reproductive technologies discussed in chapters 6 through 15.

In chapter 6, Best outlines the traditional Roman Catholic natural law argument against contraception which traces back to Thomas Aquinas. Contraception, Aquinas argued, frustrated the natural purpose of marriage for procreation and thus was a sin against God (p. 88). Best argues for a more moderate position that recognizes some contraception to prevent pregnancy is ethically acceptable and some technologies such as sterilization are permissible with great caution, but she regards contraception that destroys a fertilized egg as a violation of God’s natural law (pp. 105, 139).

Chapter 7 covers various legal theories which find their place in Western laws restricting abortion. Best outlines three arguments commonly used to justify abortion but demonstrates how these are neither scientifically nor ethically acceptable to Christians.  Chapter 8 expands on these arguments with a detailed look at the practice of fetal testing which has been used by eugenicists to dehumanize children with disabilities and justify abortion (pp. 232–242). Chapter 9 looks at the problem of evil by examining several case studies which demonstrate the emotional toll these decisions of life and death take on individuals. Best argues that Christians must respond with long-term solutions which include adoption and compassion for the disabled.

Whereas the previous chapters dealt with technologies that lead directly to the killing of the unborn, chapters 10 through 16 put the focus on medical technologies which promise to help those who want to have children. Chapters 10 and 11 deal respectively with the emotional challenge of infertility and miscarriages. In chapter 10, Best makes the case that while there are a variety of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), having children is a gift from God and there is no human right to bear children (p. 272). Not all couples are given the same gift by God so, rather than seek technological solutions for infertility, pastors may need to help families overcome their desire to procreate by finding fulfillment in other ways. Chapter 11 offers advice to parents on how to reduce risks and minimize the likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth. The chapter concludes with a message of encouragement found in the Scripture for those dealing with grief.

Chapters 12 through 15 shifts from discussions of death into life through an analysis of ART and the concerns these medical breakthroughs raise for Christian ethicists. Chapter 12 discusses the issue of surrogacy and its biblical grounds and limitations (p. 366). While advocates treat ART as a technology of last resort that brings comfort to otherwise infertile couples, Best argues in chapter 13 that mitigating factors such as poor success rates and high costs undermine this claim. One problematic aspect of ART is the destruction of unused embryos which some Christians believe is acceptable as long as the loss is minimized (p. 398).  After a lengthy discussion of various uses of unused embryos in chapters 14 and 15, Best concludes that how one disposes of the embryos is a decision that should be left to each couple, but asserts it is still a choice that entails an ethical compromise that is often necessary in our fallen world (p. 415).The final chapter, 16, provides a challenge to the Christian to not accept the use of technology to impinge upon the issues of life which belong to God alone.

Critical Evaluation

The author states the purpose of her book is to assist married couples in their reproductive decisions and without question the content supports this goal. Best provides easy to understand explanations of the medical technology and human biology in the framework of a biblical theology of human personhood. However, the content goes well beyond the stated goal of helping Christian couples. Each chapter includes a significant number of sections with advice for healthcare workers, doctors and medical practitioners seeking to navigate these complex moral issues.

Best does a thorough job in each chapter of weaving together history, theology, and science to help the reader navigate the difficult topics addressed. One example is her historical connection between the Stoic definition of personhood not beginning until after a baby was born with 19thcentury English law (p. 150). At other times, her historical references are not clearly defined. Best argues, for example, that her book is needed because “Reformed Christianity” has not provided a consistent understanding of issues of human procreation (p. 12). She never defines this term, so the reader is left to wonder if Best is really convinced that no Protestant writer has ever attempted to provide an ethical framework for discussing human procreation.

While Best does advocate on behalf of the Roman Catholic position, her book demonstrates a willingness to break from Roman Catholic dogma when the technologies involved in procreation do not violate the clear biblical teaching for protecting life. This theological independence is demonstrated in the chapter on contraception where Best allows for medical technologies that prevent conception. Yet, her theological independence also leads to some confused positions.

One example is Best’s view of ART and the disposal of unused embryos which presents several internal conflicts with her own writing. Consider Best’s conclusion about the creation of unused embryos when she writes:

Destructive human embryo research, I expect, will continue. It will be opposed by most Christians. I would like to see, at the very least, stipulations the proposed research must always demonstrate proof of concept in an animal model before embryonic humans are destroyed…. In the end, the moral status of the embryo is not a fact, but value (p. 442).

Her argument here seems clear. Best views the in vitroembryo as lacking clear human personhood. This conclusion seems to be in direct conflict with her earlier assertions that human personhood begins at the moment the sperm penetrates the wall of the egg (p. 16). This problem may, in Best’s mind, be resolved by her medical distinction between in vitroand in vivofertilization. However, this distinction does not comport with her earlier assertion that, “the moral status of the human embryo is not a scientific question but a philosophical and metaphysical one (p. 37),” which is best answered by the Scripture which makes clear that any medical technology which destroys a fertilized egg is a violation of God’s law.

The problems in Best’s work, though, are few in comparison to the excellent summaries of the science and honest attempt to understand modern technology within a biblical ethical framework. The detailed explanations of difficult concepts would be helpful to most every reader looking to develop a clear understanding of medical ethics. At the time of this review, Fearfully and Wonderfully Madeis eight years old and may need some updates regarding the various medical technologies such as CRISPR. However, the core content remains valuable for families seeking to understand the complex world of reproductive technologies. Best’s book remains a valuable guide, not just for Christian couples, but for Christian doctors, nurses, and students interested in exploring the medical field through the lens of Scripture.

GET THE BOOK

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“Laughter adds richness, texture and color
to otherwise ordinary days.
It is a gift, a choice, a discipline and an art.”
— Tim Hansel

In recent weeks, I have come across a lot of folks who are struggling with depression. A quick survey of the stats will tell you that Western Washington is full of depressed people. Since moving here almost 10 years ago, I have heard lots of reasons for this depression; the rain, the clouds, or the short winter days. Personally, I think the weather men, and women, are some of the most depression-inducing people on the planet, but that is another topic for another time.

While no one should dismiss the reality of a truly clinical illness, I think for many there is a deeper issue that cannot be solved with drugs. The reason so many struggle with depression is that they have failed to recognize the existence of two worlds. Too many people expect this physical world to fulfill every desire. Yet this world is not perfect and it does fall short of giving us hope. When pleasures elude and pains intrude, it is easy to withdraw and let depression take control. The hope for all those lost in a battle against depression, sorrow, grief and despair lies in discovering another world; the world of God, which exists both in and outside of our own reality. James, the brother of Jesus, puts it this way:

James 1:5-12 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways. The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation; but the one who is rich should boast in his humiliation, because he will pass away like a flower of the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities. Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him (NET).

The eyes of this world only see trials as a sign that we are alone and lost without hope. But the eyes of the other world see trials as a cause for joy. 

Are you troubled by life? 

Depressed? 

Alone? 

Weary? 

Maybe you need to look outside yourself, outside this world, and look to the Heavens for your salvation

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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“I find no salvation in my life history
but only in the history of Jesus Christ.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

After her husband was assassinated, Mary Todd Lincoln began the hopeless search to reconnect with her dead husband Abraham. She longed for the safety of her husband’s presence, but could not find it among the spiritualists of her day. Holding a séance is something most of us will never attempt, and rightly so, but in our own ways, all of us find safety in looking to the dead.

Political leaders find safety in taking the side of the dead. We remember Martin Luther King Jr. as a great man who ushered in an era of civil liberties for black Americans. Once every year, schools shut down so we can spend more time listening to scores of people make speeches about how much they love King. But when King was alive, he was not so popular. Many whites hated King and despised his efforts to give blacks an equal footing. Many blacks hated King because he preached peaceful reform and rejected all violence. Some rejected King because of his moral failure to keep his marriage vows. If King were alive, he would probably distance himself from most of the people who now applaud his work, but since he is dead… You get the idea; aligning one’s politics with men who are long since dead is safe.

Religious people find safety in being a friend of Jesus. They are comfortable aligning with the Jesus who came to help the poor, give freedom to those in captivity, give sight to the blind, and free the oppressed. Religionists treat Jesus like a dead hero and find safety in associating with a god that is long since dead. But would you be surprised to know that, like King, Jesus was not very popular? In His short three years of public service, Jesus survived several assassination attempts (check out Luke chapter 4). Jesus was not a safe person and He did not teach a safe view of God. If Jesus were alive, He would reject many of the people who now claim to be His friend.

Wherever you go, people are looking to a dead Jesus for their safety, but Jesus is not dead; He is alive and dangerous. What makes Jesus so hazardous? His message was, and is, about the here and now. He is not content to talk about the past or the long distant future. He does not teach the story of God like it was some irrelevant history lesson and He does not focus on the eternal at the expense of the present. Jesus was not content to offer us “five principles for a happy life.” He challenges us to live for God and sacrifice for others in the here and now! 

Over the years I have talked to countless people who know they need Jesus, but think they can wait until a future day before choosing to follow Him. But Jesus is alive and dangerous and He does not leave room for a ‘tomorrow’ that never comes. Jesus challenged people to start living for God today; right here… right now!

Stop looking to the dead for safety and discover today the dangerous Jesus who is alive!

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“The beginning of anxiety
is the end of faith,
and the beginning of true faith
is the end of anxiety
–George Muller

I was talking today with a wonderful young couple just starting out on the journey of faith and marriage. They are seeking to find God’s place for them in life as His disciples. As our conversation meandered around the details and detours of life, I was reminded of an important lesson learned this past year.

Genuine faith knows that God will never fail, but I might. The risk in following God is not that He will ever let me down, but that He may ask me to let go. If I loose my house because I can’t pay the mortgage, am I a failure or has God simply asked me to put my faith in Him? If my church fails to launch, is it because I am a failure, or because God simply asked me to let it go?

What? 

Is that possible? 

Doesn’t the Bible guarantee that if we have faith we can do anything? 

Isn’t the only reason we will fail because our faith is weak? 

Doesn’t God guarantee us three square meals a day and a safe place to lie down at night? 

I used used to answer yes to these questions… at least I used to live my life as if the answer were yes,  but read your Bible.

I wonder if Paul, the Apostle, questioned his faith every time he was stoned or shipwrecked. 

When Joseph sat in prison for over a decade did he question God and say, “why have you allowed me to fail?” 

Every one of Jesus’ original disciples, except Peter, died for their faith. Was Peter the only one with real faith? 

What of those faithful Christ-followers in Africa who die each day from starvation? Is their faith impotent and unable to guarantee them success? 

Isn’t that just what people said to Jesus as He hung dying on the cross, “you miserable failure, you can’t even save yourself!”? 

In the worlds eyes, these people may be failures, but through the eyes of the Kingdom, they were amazing success stories.

From a worldly perspective, let me ask you this; 

“Is your faith strong enough to withstand a failure?” 

“Are you willing to walk in obedience even if it means you will not succeed? 

“Are you willing to follow, but only if He first shows you the outcome and guarantees you a pleasant result?”

I meet far too many people who are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the perfect time, the perfect plan and the perfect promise of success before they will get out and follow after Jesus. Just like the rich young ruler, so many people are crying out, “I will follow you Jesus… but not at the cost of financial ruin… not at the cost of failure!”

I was inspired to talk with this couple today because I am confident they get it and they have faith enough to fail. And I am confident they will not forget that God does not measure success by how many goals we meet, but by how many time we meet Him along the way.

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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“I have held many things in my hands,
and have lost them all;
but whatever I have placed in God’s hands,
that I still possess.”
—Martin Luther

It seems with every passing year, I lose more and more hair. This year things finally came to a head and I decided it was time to shave it all off. When I told my oldest son Zachary the news, he said, “Don’t do it Dad, you will look terrible.” The more I persisted in wanting to shave my head, the more upset he got until finally he ended up in tears. Needless to say, I could not go through with it; there is no way I could do something that would so upset my son. My boy is not much different than most adults. We all like things a certain way, and when change comes, it can really expose the fragile nature of life. How will you confront the changes that loom large in your future?

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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I was pleased today to find out that my proposal was selected and I will be presenting a paper this fall at the 2019 National gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) held in my city of San Diego, CA. The theme for this year’s meeting is “Christ in all Scripture” and will run from Wednesday through Friday, November 20 – 22, 2019 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.

The title of my paper is, Jesus in the Torah: A Response to John Walton’s Lost World Ethics.

The summary of my paper is below:

Jesus’ thesis in Matthew 5:17–20 that He came to fulfill and not abolish the Torah is a benchmark proposition for how both Jewish and Gentile Christians can understood the Law and its relevance to the moral life of the Church today. However, recent scholarship has challenged this basic premise of the Torah as a timeless universal. Most significant is John Walton’s ‘Lost World’ series, which applies a hermetical method that interprets the Old Testament (OT) text through Ancient Near East (ANE) patterns of thinking reconstructed from his analysis of ancient source-documents. A central theme of Walton’s latest work is that the Torah must be read as a wholistic set of wisdom sayings pertinent to the values of the ANE. These laws were limited to Israel’s covenant with God whose purpose was its immediate relevance to Israel’s twin tasks of co-identification with Yahweh and protection of God’s reputation among the nations. To these ends, the Torah functioned primarily to establish societal order for Israel and secondarily—if at all—to guide Israel’s moral decision-making. Similarly, Walton argues, the New Testament (NT) writers produced works which interpreted the Torah from within their own Second-Temple worldview—shaped by its concurrence with Greco-Roman culture. Once again, this ‘shared cognitive environment’ sets limits on efforts by modern Christians to extract timeless moral principles or ethical guidelines from the NT writings. The wider effect of Walton’s work, then, is to release present-day readers from the ethical norms of both OT and NT teachings about the Torah. This paper will critique both the strengths and weaknesses of Walton’s Lost-World hermeneutic, while exploring the specific consequences for Christology and ethics as understood through the lens of Matthew 5:17-20. The goal is to demonstrate that Jesus established the universal nature of the Law—not by reducing it to a set of impersonal principles to be practiced—but by elevating the Law to the status of a relationship between God and humanity which reflects the eternal holiness of God himself. This Christocentric hermeneutic, which understands the Torah as providing timeless and universal meaning through the person of Jesus, then allows for its application to modern cultures.

The plenary speakers for the event are listed below.

  • G. K. Beale
    (Westminster Theological Seminary)
    Finding Christ in the Old TestamentDr. Gregory K. Beale holds the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament and is Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary. He completed his B.A. (History and Philosophy) and M.A. (Historical Theology) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He completed his Th.M. at Dallas Theological Seminary and his Ph. D. at Cambridge University in Cambridge, England. Dr. Beale has taught at Grove City College (1980-1984), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (1984-2000), and Wheaton College Graduate School (2000-2010). Dr. Beale joined the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary in the fall of 2010. He and his wife Dorinda have been married for 41 years and are the parents of Stephen, Nancy, and Hannah.Dr. Beale’s academic interests include the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, the book of Revelation, the biblical-theological theme of temple as the dwelling place of God, and the topic of inerrancy, among others. Among Beale’s books are his commentary on the Book of Revelation (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999); The Temple and the Church’s Mission (NSBT; Leicester: IVP, 2005); Co-editor with D. A. Carson, A Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007); We Become Like What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008). A New Testament Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011); A Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012); a commentary on Colossians and Philemon (BECNT; Grand Rapids: 2019).
  • Jeannine K. Brown
    (Bethel Seminary, St. Paul and San Diego)Jeannine K. Brown, Ph.D., is Professor of New Testament and Director of Online Programs at Bethel Seminary, St. Paul and San Diego. She has published numerous books, articles, and essays on the Gospels of Matthew and John, on 1 Peter, and in the areas of hermeneutics, biblical theology, and interdisciplinary integration. Her most recent books include Relational Integration of Psychology and Christian Theology (with Steven Sandage) and Matthew in the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary series (with Kyle Roberts)
  • Stephen Wellum
    (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
    From Alpha to Omega: A Biblical-Theological Approach to God the Son IncarnateStephen Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1999, and editor of Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He received his MDiv and PhD in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of numerous essays and articles and co-author with Peter Gentry of Kingdom through Covenant, 2nd ed (Crossway, 2018) and God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2015). He is the author of God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of the Person of Christ (Crossway, 2016) and Christ Alone—The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior (Zondervan, 2017). He is also the co-author with Trent Hunter of Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ (Zondervan, 2018), and the co-editor with Brent Parker of Progressive Covenantalism (B&H, 2016). He is married to Karen (34 years), and they have five adult children. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

If you want to join me, find out all the details on registration at the ETS website.

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“I expect to pass through life but once.
If therefore, there be any kindness I can show,
or any good thing I can do to any fellow being,
let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it,
as I shall not pass this way again.”
— William Penn

It is a late, and strangely warm, New York Night. I walk toward home the 10 blocks along Broadway. I walk alone, taking in the sights and sounds of the city, and then my attention begins to shift. I take note of the people walking past, and I wonder, “Who are these people I will never meet?”

A woman talking on her cell phone says in an incredulous voice, “I can’t believe he would do that!”

A young couple hugs as they walk in silence.

Two women embrace, “I love you.” Are they mother and daughter? Sisters? Lovers?

A disheveled woman sits begging for change, “Can you please help me. I need some food.”

I suddenly realize I have walked too far. I turn around and walk back another five blocks to my hotel. It is late. My feet are tired. I can’t wait to get a shower.

But who is left to listen to the voices? 

The words of Jesus come to my mind, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” So many voices and I am just one insignificant man among the many.

Will anyone take the time to listen?

Who will care for the voices on the street?

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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“There are a thousand hacking
at the branches of evil to
one who is striking at the root.”
—  Henry David Thoreau

I was working at my Safeway job yesterday when the manager asked me to go outside and sweep up the leaves in front of the store. This task seemed simple enough, except there were wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. Have you ever tried to sweep up leaves when the wind was blowing in all directions? Just when I got one area clean, another gust would come and bring in more leaves. As people walked by they would laugh and say, “Give it up. Don’t you know a lost cause when you see it?”

As I stood in the chill wind trying to sweep the swirling leaves, I started to see this as a parable for life without Jesus. How many people live each day with the hopeless task of cleaning up their lives? They no sooner get one mess cleaned up, and then sin leaves another mess.

The answer, of course is simple, wait for the wind to stop and then clean up the leaves. The problem with life, however, is that sin is part of our nature and will not stop creating disasters. But there is hope for those who fear the wind and leaves.

Luke 8:24-25 They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” (NASB95)

When you are ready to stop sweeping up the leaves, turn to the master of the wind, and then you will find freedom.

This post is featured in my book, “More Than Cake” as one of the 52 team devotionals that take on issues of church, culture, and theology in a way that will engage your team in a full-orbed discussion of missional community. Get copies today for every member of your team!

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Off the Cuff #45: Race, Truth and Our Two Realities - YouTube

The guys continue their series through the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments with a discussion of Chris Lebron’s chapter on race: Truth and Our Two Realities,  Lebron argues that the correspondence theory of truth fails to give us a picture of black oppression because whites accept a different truth because they experience a different reality. Ward, Leroy and Joe discuss Lebron’s ideas on race and offer insight from a Christian worldview.

Chapter & Author

This week’s show is built around argument #55 in Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments entitled, “Truth and Our Two Realities.” The author is Chris Lebron who spent five years as Assistant Professor of African-American Studies and Philosophy at Yale University and is currently Associate Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. Lebron is the  author of two books: The Color Of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time and The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea.

Lebron’s Argument

Chris Lebron’s argument is that the correspondence theory of truth has failed to unite people because white American’s lack the experience that would allow them to accept the reality that black lives do not matter. Fairness, Lebron argues, is essential to America’s liberal democracy, but history—alongside the present reality of rampart police killings of unarmed blacks—demonstrates there is no fairness for black people. Blacks have been forced to fight back and even forced to kill police because Americans do not have the will to face its history of racism. Therefore, Lebron concludes, the American democracy is an unstable system that regularly stifles justice for blacks.

Key Quotes for Today

The correspondence theory of truth no longer reigns supreme in philosophical circles when it comes to the study of knowledge and judgment. But it remains handy for everyday people, especially citizens. That theory says, simply, a proposal is true if it corresponds to an observation in the world. Not a bad way to go when people are trying to figure out the stuff of democratic living. After a week in which we have seen the unwarranted killing by police of two black men — Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana — I’d like to think the correspondence theory of truth would get all Americans on the same page. But this has consistently failed to be the case. Maybe we can figure out why together. — @lebron_chris

and

When I claim that black lives don’t matter in America, I mean to say something that to my mind is abundantly clear. Here’s how it works. We live in a liberal democracy that is founded on the sanctity of liberty. This implies that fairness is essential; indeed, that proposition is often explicitly at the heart of many democratic debates. The very idea of democracy reaches back to ancient Greece and is the foundation for our deepest principles concerning human rights. We believe that democracies are superior to other systems of government largely because they intrinsically respect the rights of the men and women who live in them. — @lebron_chris

and

Where does the problem lie? The fiction writer George Saunders, considering not race relations but the divide between the political left and right, wrote in The New Yorker recently: “Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems.” But our case is different. The distance between the left and right is represented by ideology and self-interest. While ideology and self-interest have something to do with our differences on racial truth, it crucially has more to do with the moment at which my experience enlivens my perception of how the racial past makes the racial present and how your experience leaves race in the past and renders the present as something unrecognizable to me but comforting to you. — @lebron_chris

Related Stories or Books About Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

As organizers who work with everyday people, BLM members see and understand significant gaps in movement spaces and leadership. Black liberation movements in this country have created room, space, and leadership mostly for Black heterosexual, cisgender men—leaving women, queer and transgender people, and others either out of the movement or in the background to move the work forward with little or no recognition. As a network, we have always recognized the need to center the leadership of women and queer and trans people. To maximize our movement muscle, and to be intentional about not replicating harmful practices that excluded so many in past movements for liberation, we made a commitment to placing those at the margins closer to the center.

read more…

Criminal Behavior, Not Racism, Explains ‘Racial Disparities’ in Crime Stats

A new study on racial disparities in police conduct found that differences in offending by suspects, not racism, explains officers’ responses.

In the study “Is There Evidence of Racial Disparity in Police Use of Deadly Force?” professors from Michigan State and Arizona State universities analyzed officer-involved fatal shootings in 2015 and 2016. The report’s abstract says: “We benchmark two years of fatal shooting data on 2016 crime rate estimates. When adjusting for crime, we find no systematic evidence of anti-black disparities in fatal shootings, fatal shootings of unarmed citizens, or fatal shootings involving misidentification of harmless objects… Exposure to police given crime rate differences likely accounts for the higher per capita rate of fatal police shootings for blacks, at least when analyzing all shootings. For unarmed shootings or misidentification shootings, data are too uncertain to be conclusive.”

Two recent studies found cops more reluctant to use deadly force against blacks, including one by a black Harvard economist. Professor Roland G. Fryer Jr. concluded: “On the most extreme use of force — officer-involved shootings — we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.” — @larryelder

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Who First Showed Us That Black Lives Matter?

Today, our nation is about as racially fraught as it ever has been. Our racially lopsided incarceration rates have led the scholar Michelle Alexander to dub our period the New Jim Crow. The persistence of police-perpetrated extrajudicial killings, such as the one that left Michael Brown’s dead body in the street for hours in Ferguson, Mo., has brought to mind for many observers horrific murders of black people in the past, such as the heartbreaking case of Emmett Till. Add to this a president who identifies white supremacists as “fine people,” and it becomes reasonable for us to wonder not only how black folks feel about these situations, but how they think about them. After all, it is our bodies that are on the line every day the sun rises on America.

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In Context: Donald Trump’s ‘very fine people on both sides’ remarks (transcript)


Reporter
: “The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest –”

Trump: “Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group. Excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”

Reporter: “George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.”

Trump: “George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?”

Reporter: “I do love Thomas Jefferson.”

Trump: “Okay, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

“So you know what, it’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

“Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people. But you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group.”

Reporter: “Sir, I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? I just don’t understand what you were saying.”

Trump: “No, no. There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before — if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people — neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.

“But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest — because, I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country — a horrible moment.  But there are two sides to the country.

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[VODEO] Are The Police Racist?

Are the police racist? Do they disproportionately shoot African-Americans? Are incidents in places like Ferguson and Baltimore evidence of systemic discrimination? Heather Mac Donald, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, explains. Donate today to PragerU!

Are The Police Racist? - YouTube

[VIDEO] Cops Are the Good Guys

Are cops perfect? Of course not. And no one should expect them to be. But every single day, under the most difficult conditions, the police protect us from the bad guys. In other words, they do their job and they do it well. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke makes it very clear: cops are not the problem.

Cops Are the Good Guys - YouTube

Race, Truth and Our Two Realities

[This is Chris Lebron’s original article from the NY Times discussed in today’s shows: ] So, I say: In America, black lives don’t matter. You say: That is false. I respond, implicitly invoking the correspondence theory of truth: Just look at the rate at which blacks are killed by the police and the rate at which police officers are exculpated. You respond with a number of points: the justice system works; blacks kill one another at tragic rates; the people killed sometimes had questionable backgrounds; if the officer pulled his weapon (for it almost always a man who does the shooting), he had a reason related to enforcing the law, and we must respect that. After I claim that black lives don’t matter in America and you respond with any of the above, one idea becomes clear: We are no longer talking about the same thing. At this point I realize the mistake I’ve made.

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About this Series

Our universities, grade schools, and media are led by a diversity of thinkers who are each, in their own way, advancing a fundamental “rethink” of how we do Ethics: a titanic shift that will forever change the way you and I experience daily life. The one unifying theme which connects this hodgepodge of ethical theories is the desire to marginalize Christian thinkers dedicated to orthodoxy and remove from the public square any meaningful discussion of the Judeo-Christian worldview. What consequences may come from this social-experiment on Western civilization, nobody knows for sure, but the guys have some ideas on what lies ahead. Given the virulence of this moral seed-change, Leroy, Ward and Joe decided to create a series of videocasts dedicated to exposing the barrenness of this new ethical adventure.  The framework for this series is built around the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments: A Stone Reader which was adapted from the NY Times columns of various Philosophers and thinkers hoping to lead this naturalist-revolution. You may be new to Off the Cuff, so feel free to catch up on past episodes. We also encourage listeners to get a copy of the book, read ahead for each week’s show, and join our live broadcast with you questions and insights.

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There is frequent confusion between two different, but sometimes overlapping, theories of origins: Intelligent Design and biblical creation. While both make arguments about cosmic and human origins with an appeal to design, they are potentially distinct in at least three ways: (1) they acknowledge different epistemic sources, (2) they sometimes utilize different methodologies for exploring scientific evidences, and (3) they offer different explanations for who (or what) that designer might be. In their book, Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe, vol. 9, The Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute, Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer, clarify this distinction:

Many of these scientists advocate an alternative theory of biological and cosmological origins known as the theory of intelligent design, or, simply, design theory. Though this theory has a rich intellectual tradition, its advocates have staked out a fresh and distinctive position within the contemporary origins debate. Unlike neo-Darwinists and other evolutionary theorists, design theorists hold that intelligent causes rather than undirected natural causes best explain many features of life and the universe. Unlike many creationists, design theorists do not necessarily believe that the earth is young, neither do they base their theories upon scriptural texts. Unlike many theistic evolutionists who think design can only be seen through “the eyes of faith”, design theorists believe that scientific evidence actually points to intelligent design—that intelligent design is, in their words, “empirically detectable” (12).

With this clarifying distinction, let’s focus on the theory of Intelligent Design (ID). Critics often claim that ID is not a genuine scientific endeavor because if suffers from the God of the Gaps fallacy. Before we can assess if ID entails the God of the Gaps argument, let’s look at one example of a traditional God of the Gaps argument presented by William A. Dembski and Henry F. Schaefer III, in their book, Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design:

(1) The universe is governed by natural laws.

(2) If God exists, God would not by his free actions violate natural laws.

(3) Therefore if God is to have full freedom to act, then it must be in an area not governed by natural law.

(4) If God exists, then God has freedom to act.

(5) Deism is for a priori theological reasons known to be false; therefore if he exists, God does act.

(6) Therefore if God exists, there must be an area in the cosmos not governed by natural law.

(7) Science discovers natural laws that explain phenomena according to the working of natural laws.

(8) If there exists no natural cause for the existence of a phenomenon, then the phenomenon was caused by God.

(9) In the current state of scientific knowledge, there exists some phenomenon x such that science has discovered no natural law to explain x.

First Major Conclusion:

(10) Therefore it is possible that science will never explain phenomenon x.

Or (in some cases such as alleged to have been suggested by Newton)

(10′) In the current state of scientific knowledge, there exists some phenomenon x such that a reasonable person can be sure that no natural law exists to explain x.

Second Major Conclusion:

(11) Therefore it is possible that God is responsible for x, so God possibly exists.

Or

(11′) Therefore necessarily God is responsible for x, so God exists.

Even this very crude summary of the traditional God-of-the-gaps argument shows the many problems with it. As we have seen, Plantinga and Moreland summarize some of them. Both correctly observe that the God-of-the-gaps argument is dependent on a post-Enlightenment theology of God’s action and an Enlightenment understanding of natural law (317–318).

Now certainly there are a lot of ways to make clear the ID is not a God of the Gaps argument, This recent four-part series by Hendrik van der Breggen offers a concise rebuttal to this accusation. Breggen teaches philosophy at Providence University College and his blog address issues having to do with faith, science, and ethics. His four basic arguments are summarized below:

1. ID is not an appeal to ignorance

The God-of-the-gaps objection fails because it is too strong ( Feb 2). Always ruling out ID runs the risk of ignoring actual limits to what non-intelligent causes can in fact do, and thus we end up always appealing to non-intelligent causes even when there might be good evidence that an intelligent cause actually produced the event or structure. The result: We assume the outcome of an investigation before the investigation takes place (which is, to put it mildly, closed minded).

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2. ID lets evidence speak for itself

The God-of-the-gaps objection fails because the proper application of ID is not an appeal to ignorance or gaps in our knowledge; rather, ID is an appeal to positive knowledge (Jan 12). ID is appropriately applied when, and only when, two conditions are satisfied: (1) we have positive knowledge that non-intelligent causes clearly struggle/fail, and (2) we have positive knowledge that the phenomena to be explained clearly resemble the sorts of things that only known intelligent causes do.

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3. ID has reasonable constraints

The application of the ID hypothesis is guided by an additional reasonable constraint: ID is to be applied only (if at all) to historical sciences, not nonhistorical sciences (Feb 23). ID isn’t an appropriate explanation in sciences that attempt to explain the ongoing regular operations of nature via natural laws; rather, ID is limited to sciences that attempt to explain a historical origin of a structure or event.

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4. ID is not a theological explanation

First, ID does not attempt to identify any specific agent as the cause of the events or patterns that smack of intelligent agency. Rather, ID merely attempts to employ empirical evidence to discern that an intelligent agent was at work. Whether the intelligent agent is God or an alien—or whomever—would be determined by the doing of philosophy and theology.

Second, whether or not God has made the universe in such a way that all design potentialities were front-loaded at the initial creation event, without subsequent creative acts (so everything comes into being via some form of evolution, e.g., chemical evolution, then neo-Darwinian evolution, etc.)—whether or not this is how God chose to act should be determined by the evidence given by the universe, not assumed at the get go.

Third, nature itself (i.e., the cosmos), the general patterns of nature which science discovers (i.e., the laws of nature), and the very doing of science per se (i.e., our ability to know the world and discern its patterns, albeit fallibly and non-exhaustively)—these provide philosophical grounds for thinking that there is a Mind (God) who created an orderly universe along with human beings whose minds can discern this order. ID embraces this. However, unlike the “strong” doctrine of creation, ID also allows for an additional possibility: i.e., that of scientifically discerning the more specific causal actions of an intelligent Mind (perhaps God) as they may have also occurred in history.

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Breggen’s fourth argument is potentially problematic if it is taken to assume that anyone who accepts God as an explanation for design commits the God of the Gaps fallacy. Outside of this concern, I think Breggen’s short series is a helpful start to those wanting to understand why ID does not commit the God of the Gaps fallacy and why ID provides a potentially sound scientific argument for design.

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